Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum in Ballarat which recreates Ballarat’s boom years in the 1850s as a world-famous goldfields township and Victoria’s largest inland city.
The theme park is spread over 25 hectares with many original buildings, shops selling authentic souvenirs and guides dressed in period costume. I haven’t been to Sovereign Hill since I was a child myself so I was a bit concerned that as an adult I would find it naff and dull. Not so! The recreations are very well done and there is lots to see and do, particularly if you enter all the buildings, peek down every mine shaft and read all the information plaques.
With little kids you should expect to spend about 2 hours there, so it’s a good idea to narrow down your tour to the key attractions as listed in the free map you’re given on entry.
One of the most famous activities at Sovereign Hill is the opportunity to pan for gold. Lady AB and Baby 2.0 were not impressed by this activity, much preferring to barrel down the dusty car-less streets, point at the horse carriages and to play in the bowling alley.
Lady AB also loved dipping her own rainbow candle for only $3.
Of course no visit to Sovereign Hill would be complete without a visit to their famous lolly shop, where we bought a bag of boiled lollies for old times sake.
At night the streets become the set for a sound and light show ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’, a dramatic recreation of the Eureka Stockade.
If you don’t mind cold weather personally I think the best time to go to Sovereign Hill with kids is during the July school holidays. Every year it hosts Christmas in July and the streets fill with Christmas trees, decorations and carollers, snow falls, a full theatre program and hands on activities for kids. At night, the Main Street sparkles with lights and projections.
- Entry is expensive ($52.50 per adult) so go with kids under 5 (who are free) or 7+ years so that they can spend the whole day there.
- If you buy an Entertainment Book you can get 25% off entry for 4 people, saving $52.50, which almost makes up the cost of the book at $65 ($13 of which goes to charity incidentally).
- If you have kids under 5 then go at 10am when it opens and be prepared to leave by about 12 midday.
- The area is a hilly and unpaved so not very suitable for prams.
- The trinkets and add-on activities are generally quite well priced, except for the exorbitant ye olde worlde dress-up photo session.
- The gold mine tour costs extra and is not suitable for young kids. The underground tour goes for 45 minutes and you can’t get out any earlier!
- If you want to take a horse coach ride then buy your tickets early as there’s often a line.
- The food is not great – BYO snacks and lunch if you can.
Sovereign Hill, Bradshaw Street, Ballarat
10.00 am to 5.00 pm every day except Christmas Day. During daylight saving, open until 5.30 pm.
9.30 am to 5.30 pm every day except Christmas Day. During daylight saving, open until 6 pm.
Sovereign Hill Entry Including Gold Museum.
Family (2 adults & up to 4 children)
Single Parent Family (1 adult & up to 3 children)